Going to the gym can be a bit daunting especially when you have no idea where to start, how to train and what to train. Everyone has an idea of how they would love to look but how do you go about achieving that head turning birthday suit bod? Enter repetitions (reps), reps are the number of times you perform an exercise for example if you lift a dumbbell in a bicep curl motion 5 times that is 5 reps. The number of reps you perform is dependant on the result you desire:
-Strength training: 6 or less reps
-Hypertrophy (muscle growth): 8-12 reps
-Endurance training: 15+ reps
Strength training involves heavy weights with reps fewer than 6 but don’t get scared heavy weights are a hell of a lot of fun! (Also you feel like He-man heading for those double digit dumbbells) Strength training is for all, it isn’t just limited to power lifters it has a lot of pros that we can all benefit from. Strength training increases your metabolism, prevents loss of bone and muscle mass which occurs naturally as we age, improves balance and co ordination, is great for disease prevention, boosts endorphins (the warm fuzzy feeling we all welcome with open arms) and of course adds strength to your muscles. With this type of training you will gain some size but due to the low time under tension it is not the most efficient way of building muscle. With strength training your form does not have to be as strict as it does with the other rep ranges, you tend to use other supporting muscles to help lift the weight. The degree of form you loose should be very small to ensure you are training safely.
Hypertrophy ‘ tone’ is what the vast majority of people aim for when hitting the gym. Let’s get one thing clear folks increasing tone refers to muscle fibre tension. What people mean by ‘tone’ is muscle growth, the only way to improve muscle ‘tone’ is by growing muscle which gives a sculpted physique and produces a better body composition. (Please, please stop the ‘tone’ talk). To train for growth you want to be hitting a rep range of 8-12 as hypertrophy is favourable with greater time under tension. So how do you determine what weight you use? You don’t want to be able to squeeze out more than 12 reps else you will be embarking on endurance, if this is the case increase your weight although you do not want to the weight so heavy that you cannot get to 8 reps, if it is you need to lower the weight. When training for hypertrophy you want to be training with pretty strict form to engage the correct muscles.
Training with 15+ reps is hitting the endurance rep range which can be difficult as muscles start to fatigue, 8kg starts to feel a lot like 15kg. In this rep range you will not be growing muscle as you will be training aerobically. Endurance comes in handy when training for sport specific reasons e.g. Running long distance. From my previous ‘I don’t squat’ blog you will know it also comes in handy when you do not want your dominant muscles to grow to allow time for your weaker areas to catch up in size.
Typically you want to rotate through these different methods of training to gain both muscular and strength development (to look like a cast member from the spartan film 300). Sticking to one style of training means your body will undoubtedly adapt preventing much growth. Incorporating strength when aiming for growth will help you to get to your goals quicker.
Remember your form it can make or break your gains. Form has been mention a few times in this blog, if your stuck with it I would suggest watching a couple YouTube videos before you tackle the exercise or if money allows, grab yourself a good (and I cannot stress good enough) personal trainer, it is something you need to learn your not alone! Train safe.
Written By Danielle Lennon – Power Moves Fitness